Saturday, January 23, 2016

So, Pastor...

By Larry Beane

So, Pastor, you lack street cred. 

So, Pastor, you aren't an alcoholic, have never been in rehab, and you don't attend AA meetings. You can't cite a litany of drugs, legal and illegal, that you've used, abused, and been addicted to. You've never blacked out, been arrested for DUI, or hit "rock-bottom." You drink in moderation, but don't have a drinking problem. You have stress in your life, but have not been diagnosed with clinical depression or other mental health issues. 

So, Pastor, you've never been divorced, you aren't a sexual deviant, you're not confused, transitioning, or bi-curious. In fact, your marital life is pretty boring by today's standards. You've been married to the same woman for decades.

So, Pastor, your ethnic heritage is also very bland, being descended from doughty German Midwestern farmers without so much as a Norwegian in the family tree for diversity. You eat meat and potatoes and have never had a Starbucks latte. Your wife is the same race and ethnicity, and so are your children. You have no adopted children from a third world country. In fact, your family is not big enough for some, and too big for others. Your children are neither geniuses nor afflicted with mental health issues or otherwise handicapped. And if they are, you don't feel compelled to tell the world about it. 

So, Pastor, you don't have a popular blog, a powerful Facebook presence, or a happening Twitter feed. You don't speak at conferences.  You aren't an editor of Gottesdienst. You don't appear on Issues, Etc. You're not a regular at Higher Things. You don't have an S.T.M. You don't star in a podcast or run your own YouTube channel.

So, Pastor, you don't speak any foreign languages, have never been on a mission trip, have never lectured in Addis Ababa or Novosibirsk, and you don't have a degree in church planting. Maybe a drive to the closest Walmart is as much travel that you do in your life as a parish pastor where God has placed you. 

So, Pastor, you don't play a musical instrument, have never sung in a choir, and feel self-conscious even singing at the altar in church. You hum along with the radio in the car and sing "Happy Birthday" at family celebrations, but karaoke is out of the question. 

So, Pastor, you don't ride a motorcycle, drive a BMW, cruise the country in an RV, have a boat, or even own a car that is still under warranty. You're praying your auto insurance doesn't go up when the next bill comes. 

So, Pastor, you're not obese and don't post weekly Facebook updates about your latest sojourn to the bathroom scales or tweet every time you can accomplish another chin-up. Nor are you a Krav Maga instructor, paleo practitioner, or member of the trendiest crossfit club. You don't hold court about supplements and cleansing enemas and organic foods, nor do you brag about the astronomical calorie count of the extra-large chocolate fudge milkshake you just slopped down in defiance of the fitness craze. 

So, Pastor, you're not a vicarage supervisor, a circuit visitor, a district president, a seminary prof, or a six-figure bureaucrat. You're not a darling of the establishment that gets invited to speak at conventions. You don't smoke top-shelf cigars or drink expensive scotch. You're not an IPA or port or single-malt aficionado. You don't take selfies in exotic places. You aren't highlighted in the seminary magazines or the Lutheran Witness.  You are largely anonymous and invisible outside your congregation. 

So, Pastor, you don't wear a rose chasuble, or any chasuble for that matter. Your congregation doesn't use incense or do Gregorian chant. In fact, your parish doesn't even have every-Sunday communion, nor will it likely in your lifetime. You're fortunate that they still use the hymnal and have an organist. 

So, Pastor, you don't pack the house as the "lead pastor" every Sunday, wear skinny jeans and a little microphone, have a rockin' house band and a "worship leader" who makes faces of ecstasy when he prays with his hands in the air. You don't even sport a tattoo and no parts of your body are pierced. You don't even wear the latest style beard. Your church lacks a stage, has neither drum-kit nor mixing board, and is bereft of cup-holders. You don't baptize dozens of people at a time, block-party style, in a kiddie pool, boast a phenomenally explosive membership growth, all the while taking in thousands of mission dollars from the district coffers. You're actually happy to see a visitor or two every now and then. 

So, Pastor, you lack street cred. 

As a Christian, trust your baptism. As a pastor, trust your ordination. Christ gives you His cred.

That's all that matters. 

11 comments:

  1. K&A Thesis VI on the ministry: The ministry of preaching is conferred by God through the congregation, as holder of all church power, or of the keys, and by its call, as prescribed by God. The ordination of those called, with the laying on of hands, is not by divine institution but is an apostolic church ordinance and merely a public, solemn confirmation of the call.

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  2. Thank you.

    Mr. Strickert, the citation from Kirche und Amt is interesting, but what does it have to do with this post?

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  3. Thanks, Pastor Beane. It's refreshing to be a regular pastor. "Trust your ordination." In other words, believe it Pastor: God wants you here, and He wants you simply to do your job.

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  4. Mr. Demarest, it has to do with the last two sentences.

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  5. Pr. Beane (since 'Father' would no doubt offend our brother, Mr. Strickert), I was rereading some of Wendell Berry's comments regarding the idolatry of the "extra-ordinary" in his excellent essay Life Is A Miracle; they seem quite apropos of how we have tacitly begun to think of the pastoral office:

    As a norm of expectation or ambition, then, heroic discovery is potentially ruinous, and maybe insane. It is one of the versions of our obsession with ‘getting to the top.’ Unlike the culture of the European Middle Ages, which honored the vocations of the learned teacher, the country parson, and the plowman as well as that of the knight, or the culture of Japan in the Edo period which ranked the farmer and the craftsman above the merchant, our own culture places an absolute premium upon various kinds of stardom. This degrades and impoverishes ordinary life, ordinary work, and ordinary experience. It depreciates and underpays the work of the primary producers of goods, and of the performers of all kinds of essential but unglamorous jobs and duties. The inevitable practical results are that most work is now poorly done; great cultural and natural resources are neglected, wasted, or abused; the land and its creatures are destroyed; and the citizenry is poorly taught, poorly governed, and poorly served.

    Moreover, in education, to place so exclusive an emphasis upon ‘high achievement’ is to lie to one’s students. Versions of Mr. [E.O.] Wilson’s ‘original discovery is everything’ are now commonly handed out in public schools. The goal of education-as-job-training, which is now the dominant pedagogical idea, is a high professional salary. Young people are being told, ‘You can be anything you want to be.’ Every student is given to understand that he or she is being prepared for ‘leadership.’ All of this is a lie. Original discovery is not everything. You don’t, for instance, have to be an original discoverer to be a good science teacher. A high professional salary is not everything. You can’t be anything you want to be; nobody can. Everybody can’t be a leader; not everybody even wants to be. And these lies are not innocent. They lead to disappointment. They lead good young people to think that if they have an ordinary job, if they work with their hands, if they are farmers or housewives or mechanics or carpenters, they are no good.

    Wendell Berry. Life is a Miracle: An Essay against Modern Superstition (Counterpoint: Washington, D.C., 2000) pp. 57-58

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    Replies
    1. "... since 'Father' would no doubt offend our brother, Mr. Strickert"

      Offending me is more of a sport. The concern for papish imitators should be the offending (and tapdancing around) the teaching of our Lord and Savior.

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    2. Last time I checked, people who don't believe papish doctrines on the one hand certainly don't on the other hand imitate them.

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  6. I know, right? Just like all these two-eyed Bible-deniers offending (and tapdancing around) the teaching of our Lord and Savior.

    Missing out on 3D movies is a small price to pay to stay out of hell, and having everybody call me "Jack" as a nickname is annoying. But I do get to be a cool pirate every year at Halloween. And remember, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. That must be in the Papish Bible, because it's not in my King Jimmy...

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  7. Getting back to the post...

    Rev. Beane, Thank you. Your article put me very lovingly in mind of my father, who spent his entire ministry serving rural Minnesota and Dakota parishes, and whose most radical acts in ministry consisted of having coffee daily with the unchurched farmers, fishers and fuddies who hung at the local small-town cafe, and secretly wearing his Bermuda shorts under his cassock and alb on an occasional unbearably hot, un-airconditioned Minnesota Sunday morning. Otherwise his ministry very boringly consisted of visiting the sick, bringing the means of grace to the shut-ins, teaching, and writing and preaching sermons every Sunday using the same old liturgy and hymnody over and over and over again.

    You internet superstar guys are great, but thank you, Rev. Beane, for reminding us of the true function and importance of the Office of the Ministry.

    soli Deo gloria,
    Grendelssohn

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  8. Best thing I've ever read on this site. Thanks Fr. Larry.

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